Football Team

A timeline of Alex Smith's career in Washington

Football Team

After winning the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year following a heroic return to the field to deliver Washington an NFC East title, Alex Smith announced his retirement on Monday. 

Since coming to Washington in 2018, the veteran quarterback's career has been filled with miraculous highs and challenging lows. Through it all, he showed incredible character and resilience.

Now, he's back on the field. Here's a look at how he got there.

January 30, 2018

Smith, surprisingly, becomes a member of the Washington Football Team. Almost out of the blue, he was traded from the Kansas City Chiefs to Washington for Kendall Fuller and a third round pick. It marked the end of the Kirk Cousins era and the beginning of Smith's tenure with the team.

September 9, 2018

The quarterback makes his first career start for Washington, and looks very good doing so. With 255 yards and two touchdowns, Smith helped lead Washington to a 1-0 start with a 24-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

November 11, 2018

It wasn't pretty, but Smith helps Washington pick up a 16-3 win against the Buccaneers to move to 6-3 on the season. In first place in the NFC East, it would be the last game Smith would start for almost two years. 

November 18, 2018

The day that changed everything. Sacked by Houston Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson and suffered a spiral and compound fracture to his tibia and fibula in his right leg. 


Smith was immediately rushed into surgery, but one operation did not fully fix the injury. It would later be revealed that a serious infection that impacted the status of his leg and his overall health if the proper treatment was not given early on. Smith needed 17 surgeries.

September 23, 2019

During a Monday night matchup between Washington and the Chicago Bears, Smith was spotted pregame walking without the help of crutches in the tunnel and on the field. It was one of the first times Smith's progress had been seen by the public. 

May 1, 2020

ESPN airs a documentary 'Project 11' which details Smith's road to recovery. It was the first real look into the severity of Smith's injury and the determination it took to come back.

July 24, 2020

In the months following the surgery, Smith was seen slowly recovering, even walking on the field without support at times. Still, it was unknown if his football career would be able to continue.

The picture became clearer on July 24 of this year, when Smith was cleared to return to football activity by his personal doctors. Though Washington had yet to determine his future, it became clear that there was a chance he could once again suit up.

July 27, 2020

Despite the positive diagnosis from his team doctors, Washington placed Smith on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

August 16, 2020

Smith is taken off the PUP list by Washington and cleared for football activity, capping a nearly two-year recovery journey. No matter what came next, Smith had achieved something many did not think was possible.

Participating in training camp, Smith was kept under a "bubble" for the most part, as Ron Rivera and company still needed to Smith prove he could protect himself before he could be put in physical situations. He eventually did make the leap to 9-on-9 drills.

September 5, 2020

Smith continues his incredible comeback, making Washington's 53-man roster for the regular season. Even as the No. 3 quarterback, it was still an incredible achievement for Smith.

October 7, 2020

With the benching of Dwayne Haskins, Smith assumes the role of the No. 2 quarterback on the roster. At this time, it becomes clear that Washington has the confidence in Smith that he can play if his name were to be called upon

October 11, 2020

It did not take long, as Smith made his return to the field 600-plus days after the injury. Working the final two minutes of the first half, he looked healthy, versatile and demonstrated that he could take a sack.

November 8, 2020

After Kyle Allen suffers what would be a season-ending injury against the Giants, Smith once again takes the field to fill in. The quarterback would throw his first touchdown since the injury to Terry McLaurin in the fourth quarter, but two late-game interceptions kept Smith and Washington from pulling off the comeback.


November 15, 2020

With Allen done for the year, Smith is named the starter in Washington and makes his first start since 2018 against the Detroit Lions. Throwing for 390 yards, the QB showed command of the offense and it was clear that the unit was better under his control. However, a late field goal from Detroit spoiled what could have been an incredible moment in his comeback journey.

December 13, 2020

After helping Washington pick up three straight wins and propelling the team back into the NFC East race, Smith exits a crucial game against the 49ers early with a calf injury. Dwayne Haskins takes over and Washington wins, but there is concern about Smith's status given that the injury is on the same leg as the 2018 ailment.

Weeks 15 and 16

Despite explaining that the injury was not major and holding out hope that he could be ready on Sunday, Smith misses two weeks with the injury. Washington drops both games as Dwayne Haskins' struggles, setting up a crucial Week 17 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. Smith's status, however, is still up in the air.

January 3, 2021

Smith starts in the biggest game of the season even with the injury limiting his ability to practice all week. It wasn't perfect, but his two touchdowns were just enough for Washington's defense to do most of the work and the team to earn the NFC East title.

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January 9, 2021

Though Smith played in Week 17, he ends up not being the starter for Washington's Wild Card matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A game-time decision goes in favor of Taylor Heinicke, as Smith was just not 100 percent. Heinicke impresses, but ti's not enough to take down the eventual Super Bowl champions. Was Smith's last game in Washington played before some even realized it?

January 17, 2021

Following the season, Smith noted that a decision on what comes next would take more time. In an interview with 60 minutes, the quarterback notes that he learned in 2020 that he can still play at the NFL level. It's not a commitment, but the wording points toward Smith wanting to continue his career.

February 6, 2021

Smith is named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for his accomplishments during the NFL season. It's an award that was his the moment he stepped onto the field.

February 14, 2021

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports that Smith has a desire to continuing playing in 2021. At this point, it's becoming clear that the quarterback has no plans to call it a career after what he did in 2020.


February 23, 2021

In an interview with GQ, Smith states that his return to football after the injury "threw a wrench" in Washington's plans as the team did not want him back. Eye-opening comments, sources later clarified that Smith had no hard feelings toward the organization.

March 1, 2021

Reports surface that the Washington Football Team is expected to release Smith in the near future. It's a move that makes sense, as despite all Smith has done for the franchise, his cap hit and limited ceiling don't match what Washington needs at quarterback. By releasing him, the quarterback will get a chance to choose where he wants to continue his playing career.

March 5, 2021

Washington officially released Alex Smith, making him a free agent for the first time in his career. The move cleared nearly $15 million in cap space and left Taylor Heinicke as the only quarterback with NFL experience left on the roster.

April 19, 2021

Smith announced his retirement from football on his Instagram on Monday. The No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft played 16 seasons for the 49ers, Chiefs, and Washington.